~Madame de Stäel
of the Restoration
of Victor Hugo
of Printed Materials
Viewed by Foreigners
~Parisians Viewed by
Gerárd, François. Madame Récamier
(1805), Musée Carnavalet, Paris, (web
coyly looks out to the viewer as she elegantly lounges
upon her chaise-longue. She is enchantingly pretty with
her supple figure, curly, chestnut hair and her smooth,
ivory complexion. Emblematic of purity and innocence,
Mme. R is dressed entirely in white, transparent muslin
with a rich, gold shawl wrapped loosely around her body.
It is as though she has just danced the night away. Like
a ancient Greek goddess, she voluptuously poses in her
bare feet, with the left sleeve of her dress fallen off
her shoulder and her golden shawl dragging along the floor,
covering little of her body. Based on Gerárd's
portrait, one would assume that the guests of Mme. Récamier's
salon came merely to gawk at her dazzling beauty and in
fact many may have.
salon differed widely from any of her predecessors such
as Madame Geoffrin and Madame
de Stäel. While Mme. Geoffrin and Mme. de Stäel
had attracted a crowd interested in each salonnières'
patience, understanding, and most importantly intelligence,
it has been said that Mme. Récamier's guests came to
view their hostess's beauty alone.
Referring to Gerárd's
portrait of the lovely Mme. Récamier, it is as though
she perched on her throne to be worshipped by all her guests.
Quick-witted men such as Benjamin Constant, Lucien Bonaparte
and François René de Chateaubriand were intoxicated
by her loveliness alone - "her dazzling complexion, the long
lashes on the exquisite cheek, the little curls on the clear
forehead, red lips, dimpled arms, milk-white skin. With such
possessions as these what need has a woman of cleverness?"
R was not noted as being extremely intelligent or clever as
a salonnière, she was recognized for her exceptional
tact and gift for listening (Quennell,
57). With her welcoming smile and invested interest in all
her guests, including: writers, politicians, artists, and distinguished
foreigners, all were received at Mme. Récamier's salon.
Her salon was located in a small, simple apartment in
a convent on the Left Bank, the Abbaye-aux-Bois. Alphonse Marie
Louis de Lamartine read his "Meditations" and Delphine Gay de
Giradin her first poems here. Rachel, the well-known French
actress recited, Pauline Viardot sang, while Eugène Delacroix,
Jacques-Louis David, and François Gerárd represented
the world of art at the mixed salon of Mme. Récamier.
As this site is entitled,
France in the Age of Les Misérables, we will now
briefly examine the topic of salons through the eyes
of Victor Hugo. Click here
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